It’s not so much that Davids refused to play, but rather that he felt others deserved selection in the batting line-up ahead of him.
Davids has been dealing with a nasty hand injury in the build-up to the season, but played in both the Global Softech Sixes and the Northerns Bash and batted with freedom.
“Henry’s hand is fine, he’s been batting like a champion in the nets, but he asked that Qaasim Adams be selected ahead of him in the interests of the team and of sending the right message as far as our selection process goes. It was on the basis of last season’s performances and a seriously mature decision for the better of the team,” Titans coach Rob Walter confirmed.
The Momentum One-Day Cup begins on October 10 so perhaps Davids will return then; it would probably not be fair to give Adams just one chance and drop him should he fail. Adams scored three half-centuries last season and was one of only three Titans batsmen to amass more than 300 runs in the four-day competition, while Davids struggled to 275 runs in 14 innings at an average of 19.
Perhaps the Titans were rocked by the withdrawal of their captain, Farhaan Behardien taking the reins, as their bowlers seemed rusty and unfocused after the Lions won the toss and elected to bat first on Thursday.
On a pitch that offered some pace and movement for the quick bowlers, it took the Titans 99 minutes to claim their first wicket, Marchant de Lange winning an lbw decision against Rassie van der Dussen (37), even though the ball appeared to be going over the stumps.
Temba Bavuma then came in and produced a top-class innings of 84 in three hours, off 148 deliveries. A short man, Bavuma was nevertheless quick to come forward and his driving, especially straight and through the covers, was a sheer delight.
A second-wicket partnership of 116 in 41-and-a-half overs with captain Stephen Cook put the Lions in control and they had cruised to 171 for one at tea.
But in the second over after the break, leg-spinner Shaun von Berg produced a delivery that scurried straight on off the pitch, and Cook was adjudged lbw for 56. It was an innings that had spanned four hours and 23 minutes and 174 deliveries, the opener collecting six fours, but there were a number of scratchy, unconvincing strokes along the way.
A team with a quality leg-spinner such as Von Berg should never be discounted and the 28-year-old claimed the key wicket of Bavuma four overs later, beating the beautifully-set batsman with a wonderful googly.
There was a notable lift in the field thanks to Von Berg’s efforts and the next wicket came courtesy of a brilliant run out, Heino Kuhn scoring a direct hit from square-leg to remove Dominic Hendricks for five.
That brought international wicketkeepers Quinton de Kock and Thami Tsolekile together.
Tsolekile, a worker of the ball, was content to play second fiddle to De Kock, who breezed to 51 off 61 balls as 51 was added for the fifth wicket, before losing his off stump to a ferocious yorker from De Lange.
Tsolekile will resume on Friday morning on 19 not out, with Devon Conway on seven, with the Lions having subsided from 174 for one to 271 for five in the face of a determined Titans comeback.
While De Lange’s dismissal of De Kock will live long in the memory, Walter will be delighted that the fast bowler was able to deliver 21 overs for 78 runs, taking two wickets, and generally look to be heading in the right direction in his “second coming”.
Walter will be over the moon, however, with the display of Von Berg, who just seemed to pick up from the strong finish to last season.
It’s normally the fast bowlers who prosper on day one at the Wanderers, but Von Berg was the best bowler on show with two for 61 in 26 overs and, judging by the turn he obtained from the outset, he will be even more of a handful on day three or four.
Walter will be hoping that his pacemen will be targeting the stumps a bit more on the second day in an effort to wrap up the Lions first innings in the morning session.